12/05/2002 12:00AM

Band Is Passing's long reign at risk

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MIAMI - Band Is Passing returned a juicy $16 after rallying to an easy victory in the 2001 Tropical Turf Handicap. On Saturday, Band Is Passing will go off a lot closer to 7-5 than 7-1 when attempting to defend his title in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf, one of four stakes races on Saturday's Grand Slam I program.

Band Is Passing has reigned over the south Florida turf division for several seasons while more than holding his own against northern invaders both here and at Gulfstream Park. A homebred son of Pass the Line, Band Is Passing has won 9 of 14 starts on his home grounds, including the Grade 3 Miami Breeders' Cup and Flying Pidgeon handicaps in his last two appearances. He exploded through the final furlong to win last year's Tropical Turf by 3 1/4 widening lengths.

Band Is Passing will face several obstacles Saturday, including an imposing 121-pound weight assignment and the fact he must break from the extreme outside post in a full field of 12 grass specialists. Fortunately, he has the services of jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who is a master at negotiating the local turf course.

Perhaps Band Is Passing's biggest problem in the Tropical Turf will be the speed of Krieger, who could prove dangerous if allowed to relax on the lead. That's what happened when Krieger wired a strong field of open allowance foes in his last start, at Aqueduct on Oct. 31.

Krieger proved he could stretch his speed the nine-furlong distance of this year's Tropical Turf when outlasting the classy Blazing Fury at that distance under allowance conditions at Saratoga in the summer of 2001.

If the pace gets too hot, Dawn of the Condor could pick up the pieces, as he did when turning back to nine furlongs and rallying from near the back of the pack to win Aqueduct's Grade 2 Knickerbocker Handicap last month.

Tour of the Cat a bounce prospect?

A pair of seven-furlong sprints, the $100,000 Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap and its filly counterpart, the $100,000 Chaposa Springs, both offer interesting wagering possibilities.

Tour of the Cat will go off the 121-pound highweight and likely favorite in the Kenny Noe off a career-best performance when he outgamed My Cousin Matt to win the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap on Nov. 16. But local sprint star Tour of the Cat is a bit suspect at seven furlongs and is also eligible to bounce off the 111 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in the Dudley.

If Tour of the Cat fails, High Ideal or Built Up are upset threats.

High Ideal passed up an invitation to run in the Great State Challenge to compete in the Kenny Noe, despite the fact he will be turning back to seven furlongs for only the third time in his career. But the distance is of no concern to his trainer, Marty Wolfson.

"The one time I ran him seven furlongs he won by nine lengths and went in 1:24," said Wolfson.

Built Up has already pushed Tour of the Cat to a pair of close finishes in stakes races this season. He has also captured three of his four starts at seven furlongs.

New York invader No Parole demands respect after turning back to a sprint to easily handle second level allowance company at Aqueduct on Nov. 17.

Away and Sugar and Spice will share highweight of 117 pounds in the Grade 3 Chaposa Springs, although a pair of rivals who have done some of their best work on grass, Platinum Tiara and Mimi's Tizzy, could prove spoilers.

Platinum Tiara, a one-time local favorite on dirt, has trained like gangbusters over the deep Payson Park strip in preparation for her homecoming under the training of John Kimmel. Mimi's Tizzy has also worked extremely well, for her Calder debut and, like Platinum Tiara, is a stakes winner on grass.